Thursday, January 25, 2024

MLK Day and Good Americans

MLK Day and Good Americans

Peter Schultz


Do decent Americans support its wars? Yes. Why? Because it confirms in their minds that they are decent. Decency, in their minds, is defined and demonstrated politically. This is what affirming the political looks like. Some might say it looks a lot like indecency. 

Hence, Aristotle’s assertion that the good person and the good citizen are never the same, because the citizen’s goodness is defined and demonstrated politically. Affirming the political always involves embracing indecency. Being a “good  American” always involves embracing or approving indecency, such as killing, spying, stealing, or lying. You cannot be a good American and a good person. 

And, so, when and to the extent that MLK, Jr. or Malcolm X became good persons, they became subversives. By becoming good, they became threats to America. Malcolm X was a better American as a criminal than he was as a Muslim. Hence, criminals were quite content to help the CIA try to assassinate Castro, because they were good Americans, willing to kill the country’s enemies. 

So it goes.

Empire As A Way of Life

Empire As A Way of Life

Peter Schultz


Start with the quote from Storing about Locke’s morality. Sum it up: Locke’s morality is contingent, hence, he offers not so much moral constraints as prudential ones. 

But can’t this be generalized? Isn’t all morality contingent? On what? On the political. [Hence, Aristotle’s Ethics leads into his Politics.] Under political duress, the decent become and act indecently because it’s prudent to do so. Absent decent politics, morality, moral virtue disappears or is reshaped as needed. 

So, we may and should ask: What is moral in empires? Which is what Williams is writing about, “empire as a way of life.” 

That is to say, empire has its own morality, praiseworthy ways of being in the world. E.g. the way of being in the world that the Brits are so proud of or American exceptionalism. “Being" in an empire is different that “being” in a non-empire. Empire is one way “to be.” So, politics determines the shape of “being,” how humans understand “being,” when the political is affirmed. And when the political is affirmed, the way to be is to be powerful, warlike, morally virtuous, commanding, willing to kill or die to prove one’s worth. To rule! 

“Philosophy” is another way of life, another way “to be” in the world, another way of being, another way of seeing being. Hence, Socrates at the outset of his defense asks the Athenians to treat him as if he were a foreigner, because, in fact, he is one. His way of being in the world is not the Athenian way. He does not view the world as something to be conquered; rather, he sees it as something to be contemplated, as something beautiful. 

“Loving” is also a way of being; it’s a way “to be,” a way of life. So, when Harry realizes he wants to spend the rest of his life with Sally, he is realizing that love is a way of life, quite literally. “Fucking” is another way to be, but it’s defective because ultimately its an unpleasurable way of being. So, it’s not actually “hedonistic” because it’s not finally pleasurable. Genuine hedonists reject fucking for loving. 

Serendipity [the movie]: The book Jon is always looking at is Love in the Time of Cholera. Didn’t get it until today. Love is a redemptive, a sanctified way to be in a sick world. [I haven’t read the book, so this is a guess.] And it’s what Jon ends up teaching his friend, Dean. And what Sara teaches her “New Age” friend. 

It might also be what Jane Austen was about. Let me call her work: Love in the Time of British Sickness, In the Time of Aristocratic Imperialism.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Divisiveness of Political Life


The Divisiveness of Political Life

Peter Schultz


                  How divisive is political life? Just as some welcomed the “Pearl Harbor-like” event of 9/11, so too did some welcome the assassination of John F. Kennedy as serving the national interests and security of the United States. One shouldn’t underestimate the divisiveness of political life, or its deadliness.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

The Politics of Elevation: Emma and the Crown

The Politics of Elevation: Emma and The Crown

Peter Schultz  


Politics is how humans “elevate” themselves, leading them to become vain rather than humble. “If Harriet, from being humble, were grown vain, it was her doing too.” [Emma

But which condition is more suitable for Harriet’s capabilities, humbleness or elevation? In fact, which condition is more suitable for Emma’s capabilities, humbleness or elevation? And, finally, which condition is more suitable for humanity’s capabilities, humbleness or elevation? Which is more suitable for humans, a visionary/elevated politics or a humble politics? 

Humans look on politics as the source of their elevation, even of transcendence. But what if that’s just plain wrong, that humans have it all upside down, that politics is the source of a vanity that only seems to elevate them, while leading them into misadventures that are not only deadly but dehumanizing? 

[Is this, e.g., what “The Crown” exposed, thereby leading to its critical reception? Listen to Philip’s speech to Elizabeth in the last episode of the last season. “All things are subject to decay and when fate summons, even monarchs must obey.” John Dryden, quoted by Philip therein.]

Monday, January 15, 2024

Affirming the Political: Nihilism

Affirming The Political: Nihilism

Peter Schultz


                  The CIA trained Islamic terrorists in the US and sent them overseas to terrorize the Soviet Union, Cuba, and other places. Why did they do this? Because these CIA officers were “good Americans.” “Good Americans” embrace and approve such terrorism. Those criminals who worked with the CIA to try to assassinate Castro, e.g., were “good Americans;” they were willing to kill the nation’s enemies.  


                  Would “good Americans” be willing to assassinate or depose presidents? Of course, if they thought those presidents were “bad Americans.” “Good Americans” are justified in eliminating “bad Americans,” one way or another. It’s that simple, really.


                  Once you look at the meaning of the concept of “good Americans,” you can see the nihilism that plagues political life. Which helps explain why the ambitious, the avaricious, and the cruel seek out the political arena, because they know they can flourish therein. They know that their ambition, their avariciousness, their cruelty, when successful, will be deemed honorable and they will be deemed worthy of the highest honor available, i.e., fame, a kind of immortality.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

The Cuban Missile Crisis: An Interesting Tidbit


The Cuban Missile Crisis: An Interesting Tidbit

Peter Schultz


                  On the key Saturday during the Cuban missile crisis when Ex Comm was finishing its afternoon meeting, the last recorded comment was made by President Kennedy, to wit: “We can’t very well invade Cuba…when we could have gotten them [the missiles] out by making a deal on the same missiles in Turkey.” Kennedy was referring to Khrushchev’s offer in a letter to end the crisis if the US pledged not to invade Cuba and to remove its Jupiter missiles from Turkey by removing Soviet missiles from Cuba.  


                  Here’s the thing: JFK was not “affirming the political” here because he was willing to make “a deal.” Affirming the political involves asserting one’s virtue, one’s superiority against your enemies. Thus, those who affirm the political don’t make deals; they make war and they do so in order to demonstrate their virtue, their superiority.


                  Politics is how humans define and demonstrate their virtue, their superiority. That is, people use politics to define and demonstrate their virtues and their superiorities, for example, that they are “good Americans.” That’s what the people in Kansas were doing during an election where their behavior led a commentator to ask, What’s the Matter with Kansas. But their behavior was no different than what other people were doing elsewhere and everywhere. There was nothing the matter with Kansas that wasn’t the matter everywhere else.


                  And in the deliberations regarding those missiles in Cuba, two sides emerged, those who wanted to prove American superiority and virtue by taking those missiles out via air strikes and an invasion, and those who wanted to “make a deal” in order to get the missiles out. For the former group, war was desirable, as proof that America was powerful enough, superior enough to forcefully get Soviet missiles out of Cuba. Such force was preferable to making a deal, even if such a deal could be made, because it would prove American superiority. Those favoring a deal saw war as undesirable, to be avoided if at all possible. It is, in the scheme of things, quite remarkable that those favoring dealing and not war prevailed. More often than not, war prevails, as we should be able to see these days.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

What If? The Kennedy Assassination


What If? The JFK Assassination

Peter Schultz


            What if, after the Bay of Pigs debacle and the Cuban missile crisis, those people who assassinated President Kennedy knew, and knew correctly, just how dangerous he was to the existing regime and their power therein? That is, they realized that JFK had deliberately “tanked” the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba so he could, ultimately, lay the blame on the CIA, along with himself, in order to try to subvert that agency and its brand of covert warfare. JFK, they realized, would do his best to break up the CIA into a thousand pieces, as he had claimed once he wished to do.


            Their fears were confirmed by how JFK handled the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba, which accompanied a much broader Soviet military buildup there. When JFK refused to launch air strikes against Cuba, to be followed up with a massive invasion as recommended by the military, it was clear to his enemies that he was seeking regime change in the United States, while resisting it in Cuba. That this was his desire was fortified by Kennedy’s address at American University, in which he called for an end to the Cold War by way of having Americans think of and act toward the USSR as a nation composed of people just like Americans, people who share the same desires as Americans, peace, prosperity, and security. Such a mindset would undermine the reasons behind and the impetus driving the Cold War.


            And given that Kennedy seemed to have found an “accomplice” in Nikita Khrushchev, he, Kennedy, seemed even more dangerously disposed against the existing Cold War regime and its power brokers. That Khrushchev was also eventually deposed after the missile crisis suggests that he too was perceived as a threat to the existing Soviet regime, a perception fortified by Khrushchev’s “outing” of Stalin and his crimes. As the Chinese Communists said, Khrushchev was “unorthodox.”


            So, then the assassination of JFK was not seen by its perpetrators as an irrational or even a criminal act. While necessarily a covert act, it was a rational and a patriotic act, an act to be privately proud of because it protected what was deemed essential to the national security of the United States, the continuation of the Cold War. That war’s goal was the destruction of the USSR, a goal, by the way, that was ultimately accomplished. Those who deemed themselves patriotic enough to assassinate a president might even have gloated privately at their success. To paraphrase what Zbigniew Brzezinski said about supporting “a few irritable drug dealing mujahideen,” “What’s so bad about a presidential assassination if it ultimately led to the demise of the Soviet Union?”

Sunday, January 7, 2024

When Harry Fucked Sally


When Harry Fucked Sally

Peter Schultz


            [Pardon the crudity but it is necessary to what follows.]


What happened when Harry and Sally had sex after Sally learned that Joe was getting married? What happened to Sally is pretty clear. She was pleased, content, even aroused, and definitely amorous. On the other hand, Harry was apoplectic, with one leg hanging out of the bed as if he was going to take off. And he says he wants to sleep, while obviously Sally had other things in mind.  


So, a question is: What was happening to Harry in the aftermath of his having had sex with Sally? I think a good answer is that Harry had come face to face with a situation he was unprepared for and reverted to behavior he had always engaged in before while having sex. 


Harry is a “realist;” that is, a realist in an ideological sense, not in an empirical sense. As a result of his realism, Harry understands having sex as “nailing” women, as something that is pleasurable but only in a physical sense. Thus, Harry de-sanctifies sex. Sex is fucking pure and simple. After having had sex with Sally, Harry tries to de-sanctify their coupling. But something is different for Harry and he senses it. Hence, he is apoplectic, even desperate.  


            In the movie, So It Goes, after Oren and Leah have sex, Oren, like Harry, flees the scene as Leah cries in the bathroom. Knowing he screwed up, Oren consults his secretary, Claire, for advice as to what to do. Claire asks Oren if he wants things to go back to the way they were before he had sex with Leah and Oren says “No.” Claire says, “That’s good because that wasn’t going to happen.”


            And this is what Harry senses but refuses to accept and so he undertakes to de-sanctify his having sex with Sally so it isn’t making love. He leaves as quickly as he can the next morning, perfunctorily asking Sally to dinner that evening. At dinner, he’s distant, closed off and silent after admitting “it was a mistake.” Then sometime later, Harry begins calling Sally who refuses to engage with him, with one exception. But because Harry is obviously trying to move on, put the sex behind them, what might appear to be wooing by Harry is just more attempts at de-sanctification. This culminates at Jess and Marie’s wedding when Harry compares Sally to a dog who can’t put the sex behind them. Harry says, “Why does it have to mean everything?” And Sally responds, “Because it does and that’s why you leave as soon as possible.” Then Harry asks what was he supposed to do, with Sally crying and wanting to be held. And Sally says, “So you took pity on me?” She then slaps Harry and says, “Fuck you!”


            Although Harry assumes throughout the movie early on that sex is the problem, e.g., making friendships between men and women impossible, he’s wrong. It isn’t sex but the de-sanctification of sex that’s the problem. And that’s Harry’s problem, not Sally’s. It’s also a problem for others as well, e.g., Catholics and other Christians who think of sex as “dirty” but indispensable to procreation. Or sex is a problem when it is used for “revenge,” which is how Sally characterizes Harry’s sexual activities after his divorce. Or sex is de-sanctified by practices such as friends with benefits or booty calls. And of course, it is de-sanctified when it is seen as “nailing women.”


            Sex or making love is one way humans can sanctify their lives, but of course realists like Harry aren’t big on sanctification as a human goal. Sanctification is unscientific, romantic, spiritual. Politically, one can easily imagine a realist responding to someone proposing the sanctification of political life with “Sanctification? Come on, get real!”


            But what does life look like without sanctification? Like a war zone. Or like Harry Burns, unable to be friends with women and obsessing about death, having just graduated with a degree in politics from the University of Chicago. Fortunately for Harry, he has an epiphany on New Year’s Eve when the sanctification provided by Eros is revealed to him. And having accepted the sanctification of their love, he now knows that the human quest is for the beauty of sanctification and that that quest may be completed by finding someone you love who you want to spend your life with.